Understanding Self = Understanding Others
You might have heard the story about Pied Piper of Hamelin. The Pied Piper claimed that he could free the entire city cursed with a plague from rats. He played his pipe and the shrilled note drew every mouse out of people’s houses. The mice followed him to the river and they got drowned. What does this story have to do with understanding the self? We all want people to follow us, understand us, and agree with us just like the mice did. We say a word, and we want everyone to understand and dances to our tunes. How wonderful and easy would such a life be? We all have that desire and it looks like an impossible dream to attain. A magical formula that can help realize this dream exists. I learnt the formula from Brahma Kumaris and can tell by experience that it gives 100% result. The formula is self-understanding leads to understanding others, and that in turn makes others understand us.
I was using an incorrect formula and hoping others would understand me. An exercise done in Brahma Kumaris helped me comprehend I was using the incorrect formula. They gave students an exercise to write a few qualities that they liked and disliked about themselves. Then, students were asked to repeat the exercise for one individual in their life. Almost everyone doing this exercise was easily able to spot the good or bad qualities in another person, but they failed to note anything about themselves. People struggle even more in identifying their good qualities. Isn’t it an irony that we know others more than ourselves? We actually feel that we understand others and expect them to return the favor of understanding us. Well, this incorrect formula did not work for me, and I hope you check if it does for you.
Why do we know others better than ourselves?
One needs to spend time with an individual in order to know them. We hardly ever spend quality time with ourselves. No wonder we do not know ourselves. Refreshing ourselves through massages, movies, and vacation is all fine. Is that really spending quality time with the self? Even when we are doing all those fun things, our focus is on others. We are closely scrutinizing people’s smiles, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Then, after monitoring individuals closely we start our commentary of thoughts about what they should have and shouldn’t have done. Our attention is on other beings, and hence our energy is also spent in analyzing them. The constant analysis of people makes it easier for us to write about their good and bad qualities.
Is our analysis of others really right?
People might have bad qualities like lying, getting angry, or worrying. These qualities are displayed through their actions. We can quickly conclude that the other person lies, gets angry, and worries a lot. Is a superficial analysis like this sufficient? Suppose the tables are turned, and we are being judged as a liar because our lie was caught. How would we feel if people declared us a liar without understanding why we lied? Is giving names like liar and worrier to people called understanding them? Or comprehending the reason for their incorrect actions called understanding them?
Does understanding others at surface level help in anyway?
Most of us feel calling people’s action out helps in changing them. Why else would we do such a quick analysis of people? I had caught my kids playing video games when they were supposed to be doing homework. I declared their act as irresponsible, careless, and hopeless. Guess what, the list of names I called kept increasing. Their actions did not stop nor did they reduce. They found even more clever ways of hiding and playing. The message I gave them unknowingly was if you get caught, you were in trouble. I never understood why they were doing it nor did I make them understand why it was important to not play during study time. I did not understand them nor did they understand me. I was of no help at all.
Why is our analysis about others so superficial?
The simple answer is because this is how we analyze ourselves. During early childhood days, we were called ‘good child’ if we did as we were told. We were declared ‘bad boy’ if we did not finish our homework. We are addressed as ‘sweet girl’ if we brushed our teeth every night. We can see from all the examples that from an early age we are taught to quickly conclude people’s character by their actions. It is a undoubtedly a fact that a person’s character is known by their actions. Shouldn’t a human being though have more compassion in understanding them better and helping them transform?
Prior to Brahma Kumaris, I did not know the true original, pure self. I assumed that this impure version that I had become was good enough. At times the vices in me would bother me, but I would console myself by saying overall I am very good. It was shocking to me that I liked myself even more when I found bigger problems in others. I did not lie often, but on few occasions I used the support of small lies. When I found out that someone else used a big lie, then I felt reassured that there were people who were worse than me. I was using people’s bad qualities as a shield to protect my small lies. I was not so bad after all, as there were so many individuals who were worse than me. I didn’t realize though that shield was causing me to grow small bad qualities into bigger ones. I was losing my qualities and was not doing anything to help others who were losing their qualities. This was because I knew myself superficially and had no idea about my true potential. I had accepted the false self and was happy in adopting others false identities.
We tend to not see people as they are, but as we are
Each one of us has superior and inferior qualities. The kind and level of the quality is different for each of us. If our image of the self is muddy and false, then our image for people will also be like that. If we tend to be artificial in our dealings, then we will doubt others to be the same no matter how genuine they actually might be. We falsely understand ourselves and that leads to false understandings of everyone we interact with. Life seems very difficult because our understanding is so limited and untrue. We are constantly thinking: did the other person really mean it, or were they trying to be polished? A dishonest person always wants to work with honest people. As they have accepted their dishonesty, they find it very hard to trust anyone to be honest. It is very challenging to live with a false picture of self and others. Why do we do it?
Who can make us understand our true self?
A human being goes through the cycle of life and death and loses memory of the previous births. We can’t know our original blueprint at the start of the journey in this physical world. Science is all about physical matter, and it is our creation. Can the creation answer the questions about us, the creator? Many religious founders came to the world, and they all preached practicing love and peace. They were unable to make their followers completely loving and peaceful. Infact overtime, our qualities have degraded. Then who can give us true knowledge about our original design? Who can show us the way to get there? It has to be our creator, God, himself. He is the one who can give us true understanding of the self and show us the path to get there.
What is true self-understanding?
Brahma Kumaris knowledge showed me the beautiful and pure original blueprint. I was told that I could become like that again even in this negative world. A life with such a high and noble purpose was given to me, and the journey so far has been very rewarding. Our earliest design was completely clean, clear, and it had no vices in it. The soul was full of all the qualities like purity, peace, and happiness. We have accepted our imperfections, because we have forgotten our true self. The reality is we are perfect and self-sovereign.
How does true understanding of self help us and in understanding others?
I wanted to understand myself better, so I had started regularly meditating, reading Brahma Kumaris knowledge, and writing a journal about my day. These practices slowly helped in realizing what made me blissful and sorrowful. I started catching myself doing actions towards others that had caused me to be sorrowful. I did not like it when others micromanaged me by constantly giving me directions. I caught myself doing this to my daughter who was aspiring to learn cooking. I had subtly bossed people around even before, but had not noticed it. My focus was on others and their mistakes. My focus now is on the self, and that is why I caught myself micromanaging. I knew getting bossed gave me sorrow and that made me understand that it will give sorrow to my daughter. I am cautious about this, and I am changing myself to become a guide instead.
I wanted to be merciful and desired others to be merciful towards me. I could not be merciful no matter how much I tried because my focus was on others and not on the self. The quote ‘Be good even with the one who criticizes, defames, and opposes you’ from Brahma Kumaris touched my heart and I wanted to implement it practically. I failed miserably in the beginning and noted it in my journal many times. To make matters worse, each time I failed, I was convinced that the other person did not deserve my goodness. I asked myself, how will I ever imbibe this in my life? Unexpectedly the magic happened and I was in seventh heaven that I could do this. I was noting down my bad and good qualities in journal every day. In my path of self-improvement, I realized that it is not easy to change inspite of wanting to improve. I slowly started understanding myself and became merciful towards the self. I was not merciful towards my bad qualities by ignoring and accepting them. That mercy came because I was in time able to change few of my bad qualities. I knew I had to be merciful and patient with the self. This understanding of what I needed for myself made me understand that others need this as well. Thus, I became patient and merciful towards the others.
In conclusion, I want to share how rewarding and heartening this journey of self-understanding has been. I have seen so many join me in my voyage to meet the beautiful self. I am slowly progressing in tolerating people’s comments, criticism, and opposition. I am maintaining my calm. Wherever it is needed I face an individual, but I do not lose respect for them. My sticking by the true self is helping others get there too. I do not have to use my old methods of requesting, demanding, or begging people. Our purity can inspire others to be pure. We can all become the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and make every being willingly follow us in our path towards the perfect self. Out potential is to transform the world through self-transformation.
© 2017, Meghana Bahen (Milpitas)